Welcome to the May 13, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Researchers Avrim Blum, Irit Dinur, Cynthia Dwork, Adam Davison Smith, Kobbi Nissim, and Frank McSherry were recognized with the ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award. ACM Recognizes Technical Achievements with Special Awards
May 11, 2022

ACM announced the recipients of four technical awards for their contributions to pioneering research and practical applications that affect everyday use of technology. The University of California, Berkeley's Raluca Ada Popa will receive the 2021 ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award for designing secure distributed systems that shield confidentiality against intruders with full access to servers without losing functionality. A team of international researchers will receive the ACM Software System Award for developing CompCert, the first practical optimizing compiler for multiple commercial architectures, whose proof of correctness can be mechanically checked. ACM awarded several teams of multi-institutional collaborators the ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award for making fundamental contributions to differential privacy development. Artificial intelligence (AI) pioneer Carla Gomes will receive the ACM-AAAI Allen Newell Award for conceiving of and cultivating the field of computational sustainability, and for her fundamental contributions to AI.

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World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee. World Wide Web's Creator Wants Metaverse VR
Nate Lanxon
May 11, 2022

World Wide Web creator and 2016 ACM A.M. Turing Award recipient Tim Berners-Lee expects virtual reality (VR) and metaverse-associated technologies to shape future online interaction. "People ask about virtual reality, and if the metaverse is going to be the whole future, and the answer is that it's going to be part of the future," he said. Berners-Lee said he envisions VR becoming a new form of media, one in which "you'll be able to sit between a movie and a VR world of that movie, for example." He is firmly opposed to the largest technology companies controlling much of their users' personal data.

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Astronomers Image Massive Black Hole at Center of Our Galaxy
PC Magazine
Michael Kan
May 12, 2022

An international team of astronomers used supercomputers and computer algorithms to record the first image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (EHT) team employed eight radio telescopes to capture 3.5 petabytes of data including incomplete images of various parts of the black hole. Supercomputers processed and analyzed the data to produce composite images of Sagittarius A*. The EHT team said the image released on Thursday represents "an average of the different images the team extracted, finally revealing the giant lurking at the center of our galaxy for the first time."

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Multi-Tasking Wearable Continuously Monitors Glucose, Alcohol, Lactate
UC San Diego News Center
Liezel Labios
May 9, 2022

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) engineers have created a prototype wearable device that can continuously track monitor glucose, alcohol, and lactate levels simultaneously. The device is applied to the skin of the upper arm via microneedles smaller than the width of a human hair, which detect biomolecules in interstitial fluid; it is attached to a case housing the device's electronics. When enzymes on the tips of the microneedles react with glucose, alcohol, and lactate in interstitial fluid, the wearable transmits analytical data wirelessly to a custom smartphone application. UCSD's Farshad Tehrani said, "With our wearable, people can see the interplay between their glucose spikes or dips with their diet, exercise, and drinking of alcoholic beverages. That could add to their quality of life as well."

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NeuroMechFly, a testbed for studies of biomechanics and biorobotics. NeuroMechFly: A Morphologically Realistic Biomechanical Model of a Fly
May 11, 2022

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland (EPFL), have built the first accurate digital twin of a fly as a testbed for biomechanics and biorobotics. EPFL's Pavan Ramdya said the researchers based NeuroMechFly on computed tomography scans of a real fly of the species Drosophila melanogaster, and on insect limb movements measured by pose estimation software. The model features independent computational components that simulate different body parts, including a biomechanical exoskeleton with articulating elements, and neural network "controllers" with a motor output. The researchers initially made three-dimensional measurements of actual fly movements, then replayed those behaviors using NeuroMechFly's biomechanical exoskeleton within a physics-based simulation.

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An algorithm developed at Cote d'Azur University could help determine the intensity of earthquakes faster than other warning systems. Gravity Signals Could Detect Earthquakes at the Speed of Light
Zack Savitsky
May 11, 2022

Scientists at France's Cote d'Azur University have developed an algorithm to detect the backwash from speed-of-light gravitational waves radiating from temblors, as a method for identifying the magnitude of earthquakes faster. The Cote d'Azur team trained its algorithm on hundreds of thousands of simulated earthquakes, then tested it on data from Japan's 2011 Tohoku quake; the model overtook other state-of-the-art early warning systems by accurately predicting the quake's magnitude in about 50 seconds. The model, which the University of Florida’s Bernard Whiting calls "a proof of implementation," is set to be deployed in Japan.

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A video clip of a person juggling is labeled by a machine learning model. AI System Learns Concepts Shared Across Video, Audio, Text
MIT News
Adam Zewe
May 4, 2022

An artificial intelligence technique developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers can learn to represent data by capturing concepts shared between visual and audio modalities. The researchers' representation learning model can encode raw data like videos and corresponding text captions by retrieving observations about objects and actions in the video and mapping the data points in a grid. Similar data is clustered as single points in the grid, each of which is represented by an individual word. The model can use only 1,000 words to label vectors, choosing the word that best represents the data. Because the method uses a shared embedding space to encode two modalities together, the model can learn the relationship between them, such as video showing a person juggling and an audio recording of a person saying "juggling." The researchers found the model outperforms other machine learning methods at cross-modal retrieval tasks.

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New integrated circuit technology. Tech Can Double Spectral Bandwidth in Some 5G Systems
Washington University in St. Louis McKelvey School of Engineering
Brandie Jefferson
May 11, 2022

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Columbia University, and the City University of New York have implemented the first electromagnetic topological insulator on an integrated chip. The researchers applied time-modulation of transistor switches to support non-reciprocity—one-way propagation to electromagnetic (EM) waves—and topological insulation on a standard integrated circuit (IC). The technology can facilitate full-duplex communication and double spectral bandwidth, as well as supporting on-demand EM wave rerouting by reconfiguring individual unit-cells in the lattice. The researchers demonstrated the reconfigurable IC's utility for emerging 5G wireless applications like multi-antenna full-duplex wireless communications and multi-antenna impulse radar.

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Costa Rica Declares Emergency in Ongoing Cyberattack
ABC News
Javier Cordoba
May 12, 2022

Costa Rica has declared a state of emergency after enduring a month of ransomware attacks that have hobbled critical systems. The siege began last month when Costa Rica's Finance Ministry reported that its tax collection, customs, and other systems were affected; the hackers also targeted the nation’s social security agency human resources system and its Labor Ministry. The Russian-speaking Conti gang took credit for the attack. Costa Rica’s emergency declaration describes the perpetrators as "cybercriminals" and "cyberterrorists." The U.S. State Department said the gang has orchestrated hundreds of ransomware attacks over the past two years, collectively targeting more than 1,000 victims and extorting them for more than $150 million as of January 2022.

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Microscopic image of cells in the small intestine. We Got Closer to Mapping Nearly Every Single Cell Type in the Human Body
Tessa Koumoundouros
May 13, 2022

More than 2,300 researchers across 83 countries participated in four studies that collectively mapped over 1 million cells in 33 human organs. Explained Stanford University's Steve Quake, "What we've been able to do collectively here is help understand and interpret how different parts of the genome are used to define different cell types and create molecular definitions for all the different cell types we've studied collectively in these papers." The researchers applied new machine learning algorithms to extract critical molecular patterns, and used experimental processes to profile more cell types to help compile and search through the cell atlas. The datasets will enable scientists to chart links between cells for a whole-body map of biological processes and disease-inducing disruptions.

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Virtual Tennis Racket Uses Air Jet to Recreate Feel of Hitting Ball
New Scientist
Alex Wilkins
May 10, 2022

Researchers at National Taiwan University, Canada's University of Waterloo, and the University of Maryland together developed the AirRacket, a virtual reality controller that emits bursts of compressed air to simulate a ball's impact in racket sports. The researchers designed the three-dimensionally-printed carbon-fiber AirRacket to incorporate cylinders of compressed air, while a perceptual illusion makes ball hits feel up to four times bigger than they actually are. David Swapp at the U.K.'s University College London said the air jet's sound and the force of the racket add to the illusion of playing tennis. Test participants said the controller made the game feel more immersive, while the impact sensations helped them target shots and sense how well they were hitting the ball.

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A facial recognition camera pointed at the entrance of a Rite Aid store in Los Angeles, CA, USA. U.S. Cities Back Off Banning Facial Recognition as Crime Rises
Paresh Dave
May 12, 2022

Rising crime rates and stepped-up lobbying from developers are prompting U.S. cities to reconsider bans on facial recognition. Virginia in July will eliminate its prohibition of local police use of facial recognition just a year after its approval, while California and New Orleans could take similar actions soon. About two dozen U.S. state or local governments passed laws limiting the use of facial recognition technologies between 2019 and 2021. Although studies determined the technology was less effective in identifying Black people, research by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has indicated industrywide progress in improving accuracy.

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App icons on a smartphone. Europe Has a Plan to Fight Online Child Abuse; Critics Fear it may Erode Privacy
Ryan Browne
May 11, 2022

The European Union (EU) has proposed legislation that would allow member states to ask courts to order companies like Meta and Apple to more aggressively police their online platforms for child abuse. A new EU Center on Child Sexual Abuse will enforce the legislation, and maintain a database of digital "indicators" of child sexual abuse content to match against material from relevant online services. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Joe Mullin called the measure "incompatible with end-to-end encryption and with basic privacy rights," and warned it "would be a disaster for user privacy not just in the EU but throughout the world." Linus Neumann with German hacker collective Chaos Computer Club said criminals already employ distribution channels that avoid such scans, and will easily evade them in the future.

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